7 Unique Christmas Traditions in the Phillipines
There are various Christmas traditions in the Phillipines that are celebrated and practiced by this country during the holiday season. Most of these Holiday traditions are based from the religious customs of the people of this country.
The Philippines is the only country in the entire world that celebrates Christmas season the longest. As soon as the first month ending in “-ber” roll in, everyone gets into the holiday spirit. At the beginning of September, you’ll start hearing Christmas carols being played on the radio in shopping malls.
Christmas traditions in the Philippines are deeply influenced by the Spanish colonizers. Christmas celebration starts nine days before Christmas with a mass known as Misa de Gallo. The phrase literally means “Mass of the Rooster”, it is the first crow of rooster during the early morn of December 16, it is also popularly known to Filipinos as the “Simbang Gabi”. With our rich culture and history, the Filipino Christmas tradition has become a mixture of the western and Asian culture. The best Christmas Traditions in the Philippines lists down the things that makes Christmas in the Philippines unique and interesting.
The Parol (also known as the Philippine Lantern) is a unique Filipino decoration traditionally made from bamboo sticks, colorful papers and shaped like a five-pointed star. A candle or coconut-oil lamp is placed inside the Parol for illumination. Putting up a parol in homes, offices, schools and other establishments is a common Filipino tradition. Today, the Parol has been innovated as well, forming into various shapes, sizes and are being made out from different materials.
Like most countries , Christmas is celebrated with songs and praises. The Philippines are among those countries where Carolers are welcomed everywhere. Groups of people (children and adults) would roam around the streets visiting houses, singing their hearts out with their instruments – tambourines and guitars. At the end of the songs, after the home owners reward them with money, the carolers would chant or sing their words of “thanks”. Recently, caroling has become a fund-raising activity by Socio-Economic groups and private organizations.
Simbang Gabi/Misa de Gallo
Nine (9) days before Christmas, a series of novena masses – locally known as Simbang Gabi or Misa de Gallo- are held in many Churches all over the Philippines. The novena, held at three or four o’clock in the morning, starts on December 16 and ends on the 24th of December. Several Filipino delicacies such as the bibingka are sold for churchgoers. The Simbang Gabi is a cherished Filipino religious tradition that shows deep devotion to God and increases the anticipation of the Nativity of Jesus. Many Filipinos believe that if a person completely attend the nine masses, he can make one special wish that will be granted by God.
Everyone looks forward to this event, which takes place after the midnight mass on Christmas Eve. Everyone comes in his or her best and newest attire. Children are in their best behaviors because they know they will be receiving their pamasko or Christmas loots from their family. This is supposedly a grand family dinner but eventually turns out to be an open house. About 15-20 dishes are spread out on the table for the family, friends, neighbors, and relatives to enjoy. The star of the night is the lechon or roasted whole pig, a favorite during such occasions.
‘Panunuluyan’ is another Filipino tradition observed in some provinces throughout the Philippines. This is similar to the Mexican Posadas where the journey of Joseph and Mary in search for shelter while Mary was pregnant is being reenacted. In some provinces, the re-enactment is done on the Eve before Christmas.
This is the Filipino version of Secret Santa and is a common practice in schools and workplaces. It’s a form of exchanging gifts, albeit done anonymously. Each participant will pick out a name from a box or a jar (codenames are usually used instead of the person’s real name), and this is the person to whom he will give a gift. The identities of the giver and receiver are later on revealed during the class or office Christmas party.
During Christmas day, it is a common Filipino tradition to visit relatives. Children, together with other family members, would often wear their best or new clothes and go to elder relatives and godparents to pay their respect. An age-old tradition called ‘mano’ where one’s forehead is touched by the elder’s hand is practiced by the children during their visit. Usually, children are presented with gifts such as money, candy or toys by their godparents or relatives. These gifts are popularly called as aguinaldo.